We consider there to be four main "pathways" for climbers to take after they graduate from our schemes. Have a look at our case studies from NICAS climbers and graduates.
Becoming a coach Training to become a climbing coach may be provided at climbing walls (this is known as site specific training).School Group (Source: Sport England) You can also access nationally recognised qualifications such as the Indoor Climbing Assistant (ICA - open to age 16 plus) and the Climbing Wall Instructor (CWI). If you want to coach, you should also consider FUNdamentals (run by both the BMC and Mountaineering Scotland), Mountain Training's Coaching Qualifications, or Mountaineering Ireland's Climbing Coach Award.

There is a minimum age for registering for most of these. There are also many opportunities in the outdoor sector such as PGL centres, Scout & Guide leaders, High Ropes and other multi-activity centres who frequently offer short-duration contracts for junior coaches.

Check out Mountain Training's "get started coaching" which covers Foundation Coach Training and features NICAS Technical Expert Katherine Schirrmacher. Watch the video below and find out more about the MT Coach Awards here.

Case Study:
Joe Olson (Reading Climbing Centre, November 2018)

"Hi, my name is Joe Olson, I started climbing through the NICAS scheme in 2011.

Progressing through NICAS helped me develop the skills required to be part of the RCC Academy. Training with the Academy allowed me to apply my passion for climbing into competitions such as YCS (BMC Youth Climbing Series) and the BLCCs (British Lead Climbing Championships).

NICAS has also given me a lot of the basic skills that I needed to become a climbing instructor. I found the transition into instructing smooth because NICAS and the Academy taight me to look at climbing in a very safe, structured and progressive way.

I passed the inhouse assessment first time and I am now working on passing the lead instructor module and becoming a qualified coach.

My top three climbing moments so far are:
  • making the YCS final at Edinburgh International Climbing Arena and coming third two years in a row (2015, 2016)
  • leading my first 8A indoors in 2016
  • taking my first trip to Fontainebleu in France for a week and getting on all the classics (flashed 'Mary Rose')
I am currently working on pushing my grade outdoors both in sport and bouldering. I also want to gain more experience with leading trad."
Competition climbingHannah Slaney 2 (source: P Slaney)As you went through NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering you will have already come into contact with regional competitions such as the BMCYCS or local leagues. After graduation you could consider a goal such as GB team selection, or national competitions such as the Junior British Bouldering Championships, the British Lead Climbing Championships and BMC Open Youth events. There are a range of major competitions open to candidates from age 12, with an even wider variety for those who are 18 or over.

Want to read about people who have done this? Have a look at Matthew's story, a world champion GB paraclimber, and Hannah's story - who's now on the GB women's squad.

For those who really look to the skies, from 2020 they can dream of being part of a team such as TeamGB and climbing at the Olympics!
Climbing outdoorsOutdoor climbing credit Patricia NovelliClimbing outside allows you to access a whole other world of climbing. Even if you continue to climb indoors, real rock refines your footwork, encourages you to think up really interesting moves and enables you to travel to amazing places. It isn’t immediately accessible since you need transport and you’ll initially need to go out with someone who really knows what they're doing. But once you’re out you’ll be surprised to find that you can transfer your skills to bouldering and sport climbing quite easily. Trad is more complicated, but if you drop your grade and are willing to learn a few new skills, the rewards are enormous allowing you to climb in the mountains of the Lake District and Snowdonia and on the many sea cliffs.

bouldering outside boy Iain MckenzieKatherine Schirrmacher, climbing coach and NICAS Technical Expert: "As I coach I can’t stress enough how much outdoor climbing will benefit your indoor climbing. Speak to people who work at your local wall, get some ideas on where to go and which climbs to climb and then buy a guidebook. Start by going bouldering and make sure you invest in some bouldering pads to protect your landings. Learn to spot each other carefully. Finding the footholds and handholds will be difficult initially, but go out as a group and half the fun is working out how to do it!"

Many walls offer ‘conversion to outdoors’ courses, alternatively venues such as Plas y Brenin run youth courses and residential summer camps for experienced climbers. Rock Skills courses are offered by Mountain Training, and these are open to participants aged 12 and up. The BMC offer courses nationwide for young climbers age 11-17 to learn to sport climb outside. Look for your Local Mountaineering Clubs (and Student clubs at universities) too.

Case Study: Heidi Schwenk

Heidi Schwenk (S Shingler lifetrekadventures.com)"At age twelve the guys at Undercover Rock approached me to trial something they were calling ‘NICAS’. I was so excited to get some structured progression to my climbing sessions. It was like going to school in something that I loved. I had to learn new skills like tying knots, different belay techniques and even make a video about safe climbing! At that time climbing was my secret world away from school, and from that age I knew it was what I wanted to do as I grew up.

Through those years at school I had to convince my teachers just how important climbing was to me and that it was something I wanted to pursue. When I got better A – Level grades than expected, my teachers thought I would study something other than Outdoor Education at University. Determined to follow what I loved, I went on to get a first class degree and a range of outdoor qualifications. I'm now studying a Masters in Outdoor Education and training as a counsellor with a view to combining outdoor adventure and therapy. Of course people still say “what, you have a degree in climbing?” But now I have the confidence to say “yeah, isn't it great!”.

Indoor climbing has introduced me to a world of outdoor sports. From competing at indoor climbing centres in the UK to sport climbing across Europe, and even working as an expedition leader throughout Asia and the United States. I now hope to inspire others to grow through adventure sports by starting my own outdoor adventure company – www.lifetrekadventures.com.

The acknowledgment of climbing in the 2020 olympics is a celebration of how far the sport has come. It's amazing that over 80,000 youths have been able to enjoy the NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering scheme and take the sport further. I am still so grateful for those years at my climbing centre and the growth in confidence it gave me."

Heidi was one of the first NICAS graduates, and her story also appears in Newsletter 4.

Want to read about someone who now climbs outdoors? have a look at Jack's story, or Masha's story at This Girl Can.
Improved personal indoor recreational climbingNICAS logbooks credit Andy DayThis covers a wide remit such as residential courses, exploring new equipment (such as dry tooling), or personal coaching or training options at your local centre. For some, moving into route-setting as a career is another opportunity as it brings you into contact with a wide range of skills and centres.

Coaches will be able to help you work out which option suits you. Your online record of NICAS Climbing and NICAS Bouldering accreditation may be converted to a Mountain Training D-log, if you choose the coaching route.
The BMC recognises three climbing career paths (apart from being a professional climber) which are: going into the outdoor industry / retail, industrial rope access work, and coaching. Have a read of their article for more information and to read some real life stories of people who've chosen these careers.

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